It is a service centre for the region's main industries; coal and beef. Indeed, Rockhampton claims the title of the "Australia's Beef Capital". Two major abattoirs are sited in the area, however one has been closed temporarily (2002) due to various factors. The triennial Beef Expo's are a major international showcase for the beef industry, the latest having been held in 2003. The future of the nearby magnesium processing and manufacturing (AMC) plant at Stanwell is also in doubt. The Stanwell Power Station lies to the west.
Rockhampton has a number of notable historic buildings such as the Customs House (currently an information centre) in Quay Street and the Post Office (currently owned by the Central Queensland University) in East Street. The botanic gardens is one of the oldest in Australia, having been commenced in 1873.
Rockhampton lies just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, making it a tropical city. The city holds the record for the highest temperature recorded in a coastal area of Australia at 47 degrees Celsius. The city is subject to cyclone activity.
The Berserker Range lies to the east, and the Athelstane Range to the west. The city is named after a bar of rocks lying across the river, preventing further upstream navigation from the coast. The city's early fortunes came from the gold rush at Canoona to the north. Later, the Mount Morgan mine to the south west became a major focus of gold recovery, and plans are again in hand to recommence mining at that site.
Nearby towns include Yeppoon, situated on the coast, and Gracemere, situated a few kilometres further inland.